(Photo: BWF / Badmintonphoto)
Nalbantova takes on the Super 300 challenge
Date: 11/1/2023 6:19 PM
Published by : Sara Gonzalez Martinez
From European Junior champion to Super 300 contender: Bulgaria’s Kaloyana Nalbantova is on an inspiring journey. 

At 15 years old, Kaloyana Nalbantova clinched the European U17 women's singles title and secured a bronze medal in the women's doubles with Tsvetina Popivanova. A young athlete of immense promise, Nalbantova drew inspiration from Bulgarian stars, the Stoeva sisters. "We are inspired by the Stoeva sisters and want to be like them," she declared following her women's doubles medal win.

Fast forward two years, and Nalbantova stands as the reigning European Junior women's singles champion and gathering great results in the European Circuit — in 2023, she has won the Bulgarian International Championships title and finished as a runner-up in the Future Series Nouvelle-Aquitaine and the Dutch International. This week, she competes in the Super 300 HYLO Open, alongside her role models, Gabriela and Stefani Stoeva.

The Stoeva sisters hold a special place in the tournament's history, having secured the HYLO Open title twice — in 2018 and 2020. “We have played here so many times,” Stefani added. What is then the key to success, something that Nalbantova can learn from? “We just try to be focused, follow the tactics of our coaches, try to not get stressed, and of course, just enjoy,” said Gabriela.

For the young Nalbantova, sharing the experience with the European Games women's doubles champions, with who she regularly trains when she’s back at home, is a privilege. “It’s a pleasure to play my first HYLO Open, and of course with them [Gabriela and Stefani] because they were the only Bulgarians playing in the Super Series for a while, and now I have joined them,” she shares, highlighting the importance of the moment for her. Nalbantova also credits the sisters for their guidance and support: "They have helped me with some advice."

In her first-round match at the HYLO Open 2023, Nalbantova squared off against Ukraine's Polina Buhrova. Although she stumbled in the initial game, Nalbantova displayed her skills on court to clinch victory in a three-game contest. "I'm feeling tired but so, so happy," she exclaims.

“We know each other, we are friends. We did a really good match,” Nalbantova said, reflecting on her match against Buhrova. “The last time that we played was at the 47th VICTOR FZ FORZA Hungarian International Championships 2022 and now we’re playing at a Super 300. That makes sense for us because we have both improved our level. Now, we are playing in the first round of a Super 300, and I’m so happy about that. Hopefully, we’ll play again, even in a bigger Super Series.”

The upcoming challenge for Nalbantova is formidable, as she gears up to face Pornpawee Chochuwong, currently ranked as the 13th in the world. It's a tough task competing at this level, and Nalbantova acknowledges the greatness of the challenge: “These are top players in the world, so it’s really tough. I need to play better and better. I hope that I will make it,” concludes the promising young athlete.

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